Once again the leadership of the South China Morning Post are being accused of soft pedaling “sensitive” issues so as to not upset Beijing.
The latest complaints came from senior sub-editor Alex Price complained to editor-in-chief Wang Xiangwei that the SCMP was downplaying the suspicious death of dissident Li Wangyang in Hunan. Other papers in Hong Kong were giving Li’s death plenty of play, but the SCMP seemed to think it deserved nothing more than a small inside story.
The complaints are nothing new.
The latest round — once again — left a bad taste in the mouths of people who would really like to see the SCMP live up to its reputation as a major newspaper.
In response to the queries about why the Li story was downplayed, editor Wang said: “I don’t have to explain to you anything. I made the decision and I stand by it. If you don’t like it, you know what to do.”
Needless to say that did not go down well with the rest of the staff. Nor with the general public of Hong Kong.
As I said, the issue of the SCMP going soft on events in China is nothing new.
Even before this century began the paper was weeding out people who were too critical of China. Gone was the wit of Nury Vittachi and Larry Feign. And later gone were the editors and reporters who covered stories out of China honestly and fairly. (Of course, to the pro-Beijing crowd, that meant the articles were biased against Beijing.)
The issue is a big one in Hong Kong because the territory is supposed to enjoy freedom of press, speech and assembly for another 30+ years.